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Drawing upon decades of experience, leaders in public service have announced their intent to establish the Campaign for High Performance Government, a non partisan working group to encourage urgently needed reform of the federal government's administrative practices.
Economist and former chair of two national commissions on public service reform, Paul A. Volcker made the announcement at the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) as part of the Elliot Richardson Lecture series.
"We must place public service reform squarely on the federal agenda. Too much of what government achieves is at risk without wide-ranging changes to improve performance and restore trust."
Funded by a grant from the sponsor of The Truman Medal for Economic Policy and supported in part by The Robertson Foundation for Government, and the NYU/Abu Dhabi Center for Global Public Service and Social Impact, the Campaign for High Performance Government is designed to re-introduce Congress and the Administration to well documented reform proposals, including those in the two earlier reports of the National Commission on Public Service, both of which were chaired by Paul A. Volcker.
The Campaign for High Performance Government will address the continued erosion of the federal government's capacity to faithfully execute the laws. Its goal is to reverse what the first Volcker Commission called the "profound erosion of public trust." Recently, the Gallup poll found that Americans now estimate that 50 cents of every federal dollar is wasted, a reflection of the erosion of confidence in the ability of government to perform efficiently and ably.
The Campaign for High Performance Government will be anchored at NYU's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. It will focus on identifying strategies for urgently needed action and analysis for the reform effort.
According to the Campaign director, Paul C. Light, NYU Wagner School of Public Service Professor, Robertson Foundation for Government Advisory Board member, and founding director the new NYU/Abu Dhabi Center for Global Public Service and Social Impact, "Well publicized breakdowns in the federal bureaucracy, whether in managing national security, in contracting practices, or in unwarranted political influence are symptoms of the government wide need to achieve reliable high performance."
The campaign will focus on a series of previous proposals including:
-- Reform of the excessively time consuming presidential appointments process
-- Need to reduce duplication and overlap across federal agencies
-- Civil Service changes in recruitment, training, retaining and deployment
As Light noted, "We need the right federal employees in the right place at the right time with enough resources to deliver on the promises we make today."
The Campaign for High Performance Government will start its work to translate the specific recommendations into action with support for Senators Feingold and McCain's legislation to reduce the number of presidential appointees, and restore the president's fast-track reorganization authority that expired in 1984.
The former Chairman of the Federal Reserve noted that the Obama Administration has signaled its support for federal government reform.
"The Administration is working to make government more transparent, examine contract fraud, and improve the hiring process. But much more needs to be done."
According to Volcker, this is a particularly important time to push forward on public service excellence.
"Public demand for results is high, but confidence remains low; interest in public service of all kinds is clear, but service in federal agencies remains a questioned destination at both the top and bottom of the hierarchy; the need for a high performance government is undeniable, but seems just out of reach when crisis strikes." Speaking of the need for immediate action, he concluded that "A great society deserves no less."
Paul A. Volcker's full remarks can be found here.